Today I am so pleased to welcome Beth Bolden to Joyfully Jay. Beth has come to talk to us about her Star Shadow series. She has also brought along a copy to give away. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
I feel like this is a very well-known secret, but I used to write fanfiction.
It’s also not very unusual in this genre—fanfic is a great way to explore your writing voice, and learn how to craft a compelling story.
I’d also argue that it’s a way to craft compelling characters.
I know a lot of people think fanfiction isn’t “real writing” because you’re taking shortcuts—you’re using existing settings, existing characters, existing scenarios. But I also think you take what exists and then you make it your own. At least I always did.
A year and a half ago, we moved to North Carolina from Oregon. Part of the change that we were experiencing was that I was going to go from working full time and writing on the side, in the evenings and on the weekends, to writing full time. It was an exciting time; it was also terrifying.
I had a bunch of projects lined up, but nothing really seemed to be gelling with me during this huge life upheaval. And then a friend said to me, “what’s the most compelling thing you’ve ever written?”
The answer to that was easy. It wasn’t even one of my original novels, it was a fanfiction that I had written years before, that still got messages from readers telling me about how much it had affected them. It still affected me. I still thought about the characters that I’d created, even though I wasn’t in the fandom anymore. I still viewed it as one of the best things I’d ever written.
My friend said to me, “I think there’s a story in there,” and I thought there might be, but it’s going to be hell to get out.
It was important for me to find the kernel of the story, and then expand on it. Same with the characters. I transplanted them. I changed their origin stories. I changed some of their physical appearance. But most of all, I took the things about them that I knew were mine, that had never been part of the fandom, and I focused on that. I ended up with a cast of really compelling guys, who had come together to form a band when they were very young, before they had any idea of what the entertainment industry had in store for them.
I decided to rewrite the entire story, keeping the main plot and some of the same events. In the end, I rewrote practically every single line of the thing. It had originally been written in third person present tense, which is popular in fanfiction, but not popular in MM romance, and so that needed to be changed. If you ever want to set yourself a nearly impossible task, take a 100,000 word book and rewrite it into a different tense.
The one thing I never changed was the driving force behind the story, the one that had always made it compelling to me, and seemed to make it compelling to others: what is the limit of our forgiveness?
The other fantastic thing about rewriting the book was that I realized that I had plenty of sequel bait. After I’d done my initial pass, I let my friend read it, to see what she thought. And the first thing she said to me was, “You need to give Benji and Diego their own story.”
So somehow, this standalone, that was I was one hundred percent convinced had to be a standalone, had a sequel. And then Felix, one of my main characters’ younger brothers, appeared on page, and suddenly he also needed a book.
The Star Shadow series is just about finished now—book three, which is the story of Felix and Star Shadow’s drummer, Max, will be out May 29th. The fourth and final book, which covers some ground with my main couple, Leo and Caleb, that I didn’t have the time or space to in the first book, will be out June 26th.
It’s incredible to me that I look back now, and even though the feeling of the book and the fanfiction are somewhat similar, they ended up becoming so different. Sometimes I will tell readers that it started out as a fanfiction, and they can’t even guess which fandom it was.
Those comments always feel like a real compliment to me. They always make the struggle I went through to turn what might have been a somewhat two dimensional fanfiction into a three dimensional world with three sequels, totally worth it.
They also remind me that sometimes you write something, and you know it’s important because it never lets go of you. No matter how much work it takes to bring those stories to life, I want to make sure you remember—it’s always worth it.
A lifelong Oregonian, Beth Bolden has just recently moved to North Carolina with her supportive husband and their sweet kitten, Earl Grey. Beth still believes in Keeping Portland Weird, and intends to be just as weird in Raleigh.
Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She’s published seventeen novels and six novellas. Her next release is the fourth and final book of the Star Shadow series, Extraordinary Things. It will be available on June 26, 2020.
Beth has brought a paperback copy of Terrible Things give away to one lucky reader (US only). Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Saturday, May 30th at 11:59 pm ET.
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